HE in FE: Different Models of HE in FE

HE in FE

According to the Foster Review of Further Education, Realising the Potential: A review of the future role of further education colleges (2005), Further Education Colleges (FECs) deliver over 10% of higher education and teach one in nine of the undergraduate population. There are a variety of different ways in which Higher Education programmes can be delivered in FECs.

The majority of Higher Education provision in Further Education Colleges tends to be vocational, in line with the main focus of FE in general. The most common forms of HE in FE lead to Higher National Certificate or Diploma awards, but there are a growing number of Foundation Degrees, and also honours degrees.  Even courses which are clearly academic are encouraged to have a vocational element. For example, in some English degrees there is a module devoted to learning about teaching, or to applying skills in English to the workplace, such as in publishing, journalism, or marketing. However, a minority of English degrees do not have a vocational focus. Both Foundation Degrees (with a clear vocational element) and Honours degrees in English are taught in FE.

Here is a summary of the various models which can apply to degrees in English taught in colleges:

Franchise model

Some universities franchise out part of their degree provision to FE colleges in their region, to be taught by lecturers in the college but designed by staff at the university. Sometimes the college is nearby, while others may be within the region but further afield. An example of this is Furness College in Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, where college staff deliver a first year of a degree designed and validated by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) in Preston. After the first year, students go to UCLAN to finish their degree, which is about an hour-and-a-half away by train.

Outreach model

An alternative model is for tutors from a university to go out to colleges in the locality and deliver HE programmes themselves, but in an environment accessible to and familiar to local students. There are also universities which have developed distance-learning materials, such as DVDs of lectures to be shown in Further Education colleges.

Full degree delivery with support

Other FE colleges have begun to deliver a degree of their own, but with the help and advice of a university in their vicinity. The university will validate the degree and usually provide continued support and advice – while also reviewing it periodically for quality, and thereby maintaining some control over it. For the first few years of a degree being delivered the university may monitor it closely, but then, if successful in terms of progression, achievement, and quality of provision, the contact will be more hands-off.  Nevertheless, the university has the power to make recommendations and even conditions for the continued running of the programme.

Full degree awarding

More recently there have been discussions around FE Colleges being given the power to validate their own degree schemes, although this is generally centred around Foundation Degrees rather than Honours programmes. There are arguments for and against this development. For example, colleges often promote the fact that the degrees they offer are validated by a particular university, thereby adding prestige to the qualification. On the other hand, colleges could be given more freedom with regard to content and modes of assessment if they were able to self-validate. This in turn could be seen to raise the status of the institution